Authors: J.P.G.L. Frias, V. Otero, P. Sobral
Records of high concentrations of plastic and microplastic marine debris floating in the ocean have led to investigate the presence of microplastics in samples of zooplankton from Portuguese coastal waters. Zooplankton samples collected at four offshore sites, in surveys conducted between 2002 and 2008, with three different sampling methods, were used in this preliminary study. A total of 152 samples were processed and microplastics were identified in 93 of them, corresponding to 61% of the total. Costa Vicentina, followed by Lisboa, were the regions with higher microplastic concentrations (0.036 and 0.033 no. m-3) and abundances (0.07 and 0.06 cm3 m-3), respectively. Microplastic: zooplankton ratios were also higher in these two regions, which is probably related to the proximity of densely populated areas and inputs from the Tejo and Sado river estuaries. Microplastics polymers were identified using Micro Fourier Transformed Infrared Spectroscopy (μ-FTIR), as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and polyacrylates (PA). The present work is the first report on the composition of microplastic particles collected with plankton nets in Portuguese coastal waters. Plankton surveys from regular monitoring campaigns conducted worldwide may be used to monitor plastic particles in the oceans and constitute an important and low cost tool to address marine litter within the scope of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC).